Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Justice Dept. makes arrests in North Korean identity theft scheme involving thousands of IT workers

News

Justice Dept. makes arrests in North Korean identity theft scheme involving thousands of IT workers
News

News

Justice Dept. makes arrests in North Korean identity theft scheme involving thousands of IT workers

2024-05-17 07:26 Last Updated At:07:30

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department announced Thursday multiple arrests in a series of complex stolen identity theft cases that officials say are part of a wide-ranging scheme that generates enormous proceeds for the North Korean government, including for its weapons program.

The conspiracy involves thousands of North Korean information technology workers who prosecutors say are dispatched by the government to live abroad and who rely on the stolen identities of Americas to obtain remote employment at U.S.-based Fortune 500 companies, jobs that give them access to sensitive corporate data and lucrative paychecks. The companies did not realize the workers were overseas.

The fraud scheme is a way for heavily sanctioned North Korea, which is cut off from the U.S. financial system, to take advantage of a “toxic brew” of converging factors, including a high-tech labor shortage in the U.S. and the proliferation of remote telework, Marshall Miller, the Justice Department's principal associate deputy attorney general, said in an interview.

The Justice Department says the cases are part of a broader strategy to not only prosecute individuals who enable the fraud but also to build partnerships with other countries and to warn private-sector companies of the need to be vigilant — and not duped — about the actual identities of the people they're hiring.

FBI and Justice Department officials launched an initiative in March centered on the fraud scheme and last year announced the seizure of more than a dozen website domains used by North Korean IT workers.

“More and more often, compliance programs at American companies and organizations are on the front lines of protecting our national security,” Miller said. "Corporate compliance and national security are now intertwined like never before.”

The Justice Department said in court documents in one case that more than 300 companies — including a high-end retail chain and a “premier Silicon Valley technology company” — have been affected and that more than $6.8 million in revenue has been generated for the workers, who are based outside of the U.S., including in China and Russia.

Those arrested include an Arizona woman, Christina Marie Chapman, who prosecutors say facilitated the scheme by helping the workers obtain and validate stolen identities, receiving and hosting laptops from U.S. companies who thought they were sending the devices to legitimate employees and helping the workers connect remotely to companies.

According to the indictment, Chapman ran more than one “laptop farm” where U.S. companies sent computers and paychecks to IT workers they did not realize were overseas.

At Chapman’s laptop farms, she allegedly connected overseas IT workers who logged in remotely to company networks so it appeared the logins were coming from the United States. She also is alleged to have received paychecks for the overseas IT workers at her home, forging the beneficiaries’ signatures for transfer abroad and enriching herself by charging monthly fees.

Other defendants include a Ukrainian man, Oleksandr Didenko, who prosecutors say created fake accounts at job search platforms that he then sold to overseas workers who went on to apply for jobs at U.S. companies. He was was arrested in Poland last week, and the Justice Department said it had seized his company's online domain.

A Vietnamese national, Minh Phuong Vong, was arrested in Maryland on charges of fraudulently obtaining a job at a U.S. company that was actually performed by remote workers who posed as him and were based overseas.

It was not immediately clear if any of the three had lawyers.

Separately, the State Department said it was offering a reward for information about certain North Korean IT workers who officials say were assisted by Chapman.

And the FBI, which conducted the investigations, issued a public service announcement that warned companies about the scheme, encouraging them to implement identity verification standards through the hiring process and to educate human resources staff and hiring managers about the threat.

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to the report.

FILE - The seal for the Justice Department is photographed in Washington, Nov. 18, 2022. The Justice Department has announced three arrests in a complex stolen identity scheme that officials say generates enormous proceeds for the North Korean government, including for its weapons program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - The seal for the Justice Department is photographed in Washington, Nov. 18, 2022. The Justice Department has announced three arrests in a complex stolen identity scheme that officials say generates enormous proceeds for the North Korean government, including for its weapons program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Next Article

Italy advances at Euro 2024 after Zaccagni equalizer in injury time against Croatia

2024-06-25 06:29 Last Updated At:06:31

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Italy substitute Mattia Zaccagni scored in the last minute of stoppage time for Italy to advance to the knockout stage of the European Championship after drawing Croatia 1-1 on Monday.

Luka Modric’s second-half strike looked like sending Croatia through as the Group B runner-up, but Zaccagni swept a brilliant shot inside the far post in the eighth minute of added time to cap a furious finale from the defending champions.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was unhappy so much time was added after a battling performance from his side.

“You can’t have eight minutes of added time after that game, it’s nonsense,” Dalic said. “There weren’t so many breaks in play, or so many fouls to justify that. I don’t want to cause a fuss but I think Croatia needs to be acknowledged and respected. We played for almost three hours.”

Italy needed a point to progress, while Croatia realistically needed a win to stay in the tournament. The Croatians have two points from their three games and were at the mercy of other results to see if it’s enough to scrape through as one of the best third-place finishers.

Dalic made no mention of waiting. He already believes his side is out.

Italy will face Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday in Berlin's Olympiastadion, where the final is on July 14.

“We were a bit soft at times in the game, we didn’t produce our best football,” Italy coach Luciano Spalletti said. “When you can afford to draw the game, that’s how it goes, you know a draw is enough, you are a bit more timid.”

But Spalletti bristled at a question asking if he was concerned about his team trailing going into stoppage time.

“Worries and concerns are part and parcel of this job,” the Italy coach said. “We did what we needed to do.”

Modric scored 33 seconds after having a penalty saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to become the oldest goal-scorer ever at the tournament.

Modric, at 38 years, 289 days on Monday, broke the record held by Ivica Vastic, who was 38 years, 257 days, when he scored for Austria against Poland at Euro 2008.

After Modric’s penalty miss, Croatia immediately attacked again and Donnarumma had to save a shot by Ante Budimir. Modric pounced on the rebound in the 55th minute.

The goal sent showers of beer into the sky as ecstatic Croatian fans jettisoned the cups they were holding in the celebrations.

Alessandro Bastoni headed just over in response as the Italians suddenly found themselves in need of a goal. Defeat could have seen the defending champion knocked out depending on results in other games.

Modric turned his skills to defense until he went off to standing ovations in the 80th.

“He wasn't tired,” said Dalic, who added he wanted to give his star a rest.

But Italy maintained its pressure and it finally paid off at the last possible moment with Zaccagni’s curling shot.

AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

Croatia's Ante Budimir, left, vies for the ball with Italy's Matteo Darmian during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Croatia's Ante Budimir, left, vies for the ball with Italy's Matteo Darmian during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Croatia's Luka Modric scores his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Croatia's Luka Modric scores his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Croatia's Luka Modric reacts at the end of Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Croatia's Luka Modric reacts at the end of Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal of Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni, right, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal of Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni, top left, celebrates after he scored his side's opening goal during the Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni, top left, celebrates after he scored his side's opening goal during the Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni scores his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni scores his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni celebrates after scoring during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Italy's Mattia Zaccagni celebrates after scoring during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Italian players celebrate after teammate Mattia Zaccagni scored during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Italian players celebrate after teammate Mattia Zaccagni scored during a Group B match between Croatia and Italy at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Leipzig, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Recommended Articles